We are truly pampered with the possibility to jet off for a quick family getaway with waves, hammocks and margaritas. Phuket is the obvious choice for many, but this time we were looking for somewhere quieter, away from the maddening crowds. Less than two hours drive up from Phuket airport lies Khao Lak, famous for the devastation left behind the tsunami and Scandinavian clientele. New, mid-to upper range resorts now line the vast golden beach and it was not difficult to find reasonably priced rooms there even in the height of the season. We picked Manathai Khao Lak for the pool and quiet location, and had a most satisfying family break there.
The hotel seemed to be favoured by European semi-independent tourists; there are folders of a dozen tour operators in the reception but don’t let that deter you. The place is big and spacious and did not feel like one of those hotels where you feel like you are staying on a bus station with groups coming and going. There were a lot of families and some couples. We thought the hotel had a nice calm vibe to it.
Our room was spacious and had everything we needed. The kids being a bit bigger now we tend to look for rooms with a day bed. At Manathai kids stay for free if sleeping on the day bed, but you could also get an extra bed for THB950/night if traveling with older/more kids.
There is a kids’ club with a different activity every day for a small fee. Ours took part in a mocktail making and some arts sessions and were happy to occasionally just to pop in and watch the tv.
Food: We loved eating the breakfast out on the terrace, and enjoyed the spread. The bakery had different goodies every morning, but I was sad to have the yummy pretzels only on one day. We tried both lunch and dinner at the beachside restaurant, Pad Thai, and the food was good, although a bit pricey. There is a beach restaurant next door, which has the cheap and cheerful standard Thai tourist menu available, as well as (expensive) ice creams and (cheap) beer. If you keep on walking another 5-10 minutes to the right there is another small local restaurant. For more dining options you’ll need to walk a good 20 minutes on the beach or take a taxi.
There is free morning yoga on the beach and thai boxing on most afternoons. The boxing looked like hard work but fun! I am generally more interested in waffles than exercise in the mornings, but I dragged myself up one morning for the yoga: it was more like gentle stretching but very popular and many people seemed to combine it with a jog on the beach.
The pool and the beach: The pool is beautiful and big, and there are loads of sun loungers and good shade. There are lots of sun loungers in the shade of the trees on the beach, offering nice shade late into the morning. The beach itself is clean, wide and had gently rolling waves when we were there, perfect for kids. By taking a few steps from the hotel beachfront you can have the beach to yourself. Scrolling through our Facebook feed full of pictures of tightly packed beaches in the neighbouring Phuket we couldn’t help feeling a bit smug.
Location: The hotel is a bit remote, so if you want to pop in at the night market or a different restaurant for every meal, you may want to look somewhere closer to the village of Khao Lak, 10-15 minute drive away. We just wanted to spend a few days reading books and swimming and were happy to do a few excursions by taxi, easily arranged from the reception. Renting a car from Phuket airport would also be a good idea if you want to explore the area. We arranged our transfers through the hotel, and although paid a bit over the market rate were happy with the smoothness of getting in and out.